The Dentist’s Diary – 529th

It was the best of times it was the worst of times! But thankfully at the end we were all celebrating, we were all ‘breathing again’ and we were all just so relieved!

It had been a year (bar one day), since our last 22-20 victory which came in equally dramatic circumstances at The Lightstream Stadium on Good Friday. This time we got home again by that score, but the boot this time was on the other foot and it was Hull FC that were hanging on for dear life at the end. But, then again, as far as the really good teams go, how many times have we seen Saints, Leeds and Wigan do just that early in the season and scrape home with the points?

If you weren’t emotionally involved then as for drama, well you’d have certainly got your money’s worth at a cold DW Stadium on Friday night. However, despite the fact that the game was a real gripping affair, in the end I would much rather be reporting on an easy win gained after a fabulous start, than an almost tragic capitulation in the final quarter, when we simply couldn’t keep hold of the ball. I know all about the claims of Wigan beforehand concerning the number of players they had out injured and their coaches whinging afterwards that they would have won had they been on Sky, but that’s the game and that sort of rhetoric doesn’t wash much with me at all. But, I will concede that you have to admire the Lancastrians strength in depth and the way that despite trailing 22–0, in the end, had the game gone on any longer, they would most certainly have won.

That alone could be very worrying indeed, but there were some mitigating circumstances on our side too. There was the team arriving late (like most of the other travellers from the East Coast) which caused a truncated warm up, the loss of Danny Houghton and the disruption that brought and the response from a Wigan crowd that finally woke up and apparently for the first time this season came to life. On the plus side we are, after just 6 games, half way to our first target, the accepted safety point for the top eights split, we scored some amazing tries, we scrapped and scrapped when the tide of the game had turned against us and on Saturday morning we sat top of the league after over a quarter of the regular season had passed.

Points are all that matters these days and we got both to go 5 wins from 6 games and who wouldn’t have taken that a couple of months ago in the pre-season. Once the tide of a game has turned against you in the sort of circumstances we saw the other night you have the devil’s own job to turn it back again, but if we didn’t exactly do that, we at least found a way to stem that tide and there were some real heroes out there at the end.

Last weekend I said that I would take anything from the next two games and we got two precious points in a crazy game that left the players out on their feet and us lot on the terraces out of our minds!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 528th

Another game and another good win, with us firing for about 20 minutes and doing what we had to do in a professional showing that secured the victory and as a couple of the front runners slipped up they were two very useful points indeed. We have only played the lower ranked teams thus far, but they still had to be beaten and we have done what we had to do with some aplomb.

4 wins from 5 games is better than we could have wished for and numerically better than the start of our last epic season. It’s still pretty mundane stuff at times because at this stage of the campaign that’s the nature of the beast really, but at least last Friday we saw more fluidity in our play, some great tries and a performance that included some encouraging showings from several players. Not only are Taylor, Mini, Sneyd, Fonua and Kelly showing some of the class we knew they possessed, but some of the players who had to step up like Bowden, Green and Thompson are showing some good form too. Connor and Michaels stepped into the injury breach well, whilst ‘Laid back Lenny’ just stroked over the goals again from all over the pitch so that well before ten o’clock, it was job done.

That shows I believe that Lee Radford’s squad system is working and that he has the confidence to play his fringe players when necessary, which proves I think that the pressure of last year, when he and many players were under threat if we didn’t perform, is off somewhat this time around.

So it was two more points and a job well done, in a game we simply had to win and now, as we look forward to arguably the two most difficult games of the season, we face them in a reasonably relaxed state! Anything from these two encounters would be a welcome bonus, but we approach them with those 8 precious points in the bag and with a team that now has some confidence, some points and a more relaxed demeanour. So ‘Bring on the Pies’!!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 527th

Another game, another hard fought encounter. Another 80 minutes on the edge of your seat and another win. It’s 6 points from 4 games and who amongst us, back in January, wouldn’t have taken that?

In fact, some said that a wounded Wakefield with a point to prove, a resurgent Huddersfield and a strengthened Saints would all cause us big problems, with perhaps the game against a Catalan team that doesn’t travel well at all, our best chance for early points. Well that’s what I said anyway, but what did I know?

At this time of the year it’s all about accruing the points by grinding out the wins. If you attack is a bit stop-start, but your defence is sound, then you’ll come through and do what you have to, which is to win more than you lose in these early rounds, so that you just keep in touch with the top of the table.

With a miserly 6 tries conceded in 4 games it’s certainly evident that we have our priorities right, while our ability to manage the game so well when we are short-handed or under the cosh is certainly paying dividends. Hull FC were famous for their resilience last year when we came back from a losing situation on 18 occasions to win games and, so far at least that has continued this year as well. With Ellis and Watts out, two youngsters on the bench, Talanoa out at half time and Danny Washbrook drafted into the centre, no wonder Lee Radford, in charge for his one hundredth game at Hull FC, was happy afterwards. Friday was job done, in so many ways.

In Super League, when you peak too early then, as we found out last year, you run out of puff late on when it matters. However, for now at least it’s going well and for me we can ask for little more after our first 4 games.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 526th

HuddsAway17

“Garry Schofield …He’s a Banker, he’s a Banker!!”

(Well, I think that’s what the FC fans were chanting at Huddersfield last Thursday!)

It was great that after hearing the thoughts of Mr Schofield in his unprecedented outburst earlier in the week, Marc Sneyd was able to keep his council and let it all wash over him, in fact he even declined to be interviewed directly after the game. Instead our number 7, simply let his actions do the talking. There, in the cold of a pretty bleak Huddersfield night, he gave the most emphatic and succinct reply to the banal taunting of the washed up pundit and did it in the best way possible. Being accused of not being able to pass, run or tackle in a radio interview, Marc answered all those criticisms ‘and then some’, and in addition by the end of the game, Schofield’s ‘bandwagoning’ questioning of the validity of his partnership with ‘Albo’ Kelly, was beginning to look ridiculous too.

It was a good win but that victory wasn’t as easy as many are now making out either. Three years ago under those circumstances, with a wet ball, a poor crowd and a depleted Huddersfield team, complacency could have led us to at best a struggling win and at worse an unexpected defeat. But, this Hull FC squad is a bit different and rather like at Widnes last year, when in the Super 8’s we put them to the sword, our new found mental tenacity came through and we were able to put a wounded team away in clinical fashion.

This victory was of course earlier in the season than that nilling in Cheshire in 2016 and so there were mistakes a plenty, nevertheless it was job done in some style. However, as the dust settles and some are already looking forward to Saints on Friday, it’s always great when a plan comes together and I just want to take some time out to say a big well done to Marc Sneyd, as ‘Laid back Lenny’ made sure that last Thursday his decisive actions, spoke louder than Schofield’s hollow taunts.

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